Planted tank, filter or no filter that is the question.

Utar

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I started to ask questions about this on someone else's thread, so decided I could learn more about it and started this thread.

It was said by some very experienced people that a fully planted tank does not need a filter with bio-media in it. It was also said that in doing a planted cycle that no ammonia added is needed.

So I do need some clarification on all this as I am still a bit confused, I believe the reason is all this is going against most of what I have learned over the past five years I have been fish keeping. Kinda hard to go against the grain of what I have already learned.

So in doing a planted cycle, the fish are supposed to be the ammonia source, correct, or am I misunderstanding this. This means a fish in cycle, which goes against my feelings of subjecting fish to ammonia and nitrite poisoning. I don't do fish in cycles, I do fish-less cycling only. So in a planted cycle the plants are supposed to take the load and absorb those dangerous gasses protecting the fish. I do know that a person should under this planted only cycle add a few fish at a time and I understand this.

Here is my tank and present stock. The tank as been up and running now for over six months. Picture below.
55 gallon/ 208 liter tank.
Two large veil tail Angel fish.
10 Red Eyed Tetras
2 Bristle Nosed Plecos
10 assorted snails.
7 albino cories.



Some one also suggested that I could take down and remove my canister filter as it may no longer be needed. I really need more input about this before I do.

This picture was taken three months ago, and the plants have literally taken over by now.

55 gallon Tank 9-29-20.jpg
 

mcordelia

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what you are speaking of is a so-called "walstad-style" tank. from what I understand, those work when the plant volume is >50% of the tank volume, and the tank is tremendously understocked. You would still need a powerhead for water movement to prevent unoxygenated pockets of water from forming etc. Based on your picture, I would not feel comfortable taking out the canister filter, since you would need way more plants, and floating plants added to the mix to cope with a bioload. Even then, with the stocking list you have, I would hesitate to try that experiment.

On the other hand, I know you have been speaking of setting up a betta tank for Betta Max, and that might be a good approach for a walstad style tank. Bettas themselves don't produce a ton of waste and like calmer waters, and I'm sure he might appreciate plentiful floating plants as well.

My first attempt at a planted cycle did not go so well, I did not get enough fast-growing plants. I have now added some water sprite and am planning on getting some hornwort as well, so hopefully that will help with the bioload. I think what happens with a silent/planted cycle is that the plants take on the initial ammonia/nitrite load, and the bacterial colonies slowly grow as the tank matures. As you add more fish, the plants will eventually not be able to keep up (that is why we have filters), but by that point the small colonies that will have formed alongside the plants doing their thing will also be able to multiply rapidly to support an increasing ammonia load.

So in essence, yes, a planted cycle gone bad will be a fish-in cycle, but I think it can be avoided as long as 1) there are enough plants to take the initial onslaught of ammonia 2) enough time is given between additions of fish to give a chance for the plants to grow / BB to establish in the "background" so that ultimately when you get to "normal" stocking levels, you will be able to sustain a tank as a mix of plants and BB living in your filter and substrate etc. This is why after a few months you can remove the hornwort etc from a tank that was established with a planted/silent cycle, because the BB will have established itself alongside the plants as well.
 
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Utar

Utar

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@mcordelia thank you for the reply and food for thought.

So here is how I see all this and concerning all the people into and just starting fish keeping. Only the most experienced of us should attempt to do a planted silent cycle.

So many beginners, and I am at fault in the past get in a hurry to get fish. One with experience enough will know that to attempt a silent planted cycle, you must be patient and have the right fast growing plants that do the best job absorbing ammonia and nitrite. After setting up the tank one should know that it will take sometime for those plants to reach sufficient size and numbers to take care of the load before adding fish ie 50% plus fully established plants for the given size aquarium. One should also know that not all plants will be successful in a given aquarium due to several different perimeters included but not limited to water chemistry. So one should know they might have to experiment with different plants to figure out what works for their aquarium. Taking all this into account there are so many factors involved that one should understand before attempting a silent cycled planted aquarium, least they risk dead fish.
 
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Utar

Utar

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Yeah Max, I forgot, when I setup his 20 gallon long it will be his tank, and I will heavily plant it. But for now and until I have his tank fully realized he will have to stay in his temporary tank, which I still want as a shrimp and tetra tank. My lord that MTS is really bad, does anyone know of a cure....lol....:hyper:
 

mcordelia

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I think I would have to disagree somewhat with that. I think whether a planted/silent or a fishless cycle suits you better depends on your personality and level of patience, and what you find intriguing in the fish hobby.

For instance: a fishless cycle takes 4-6 weeks to complete, but can be completed in as little as 2 weeks with cycle starter "bacteria from a bottle". It requires you to follow a formula for when to add ammonia, and requires you to be diligent in measuring ammonia at certain intervals, and then doing water changes and adding additional doses according to a "recipe". For many, this idea of just watching their tank sit there doing nothing may be unbearable.

on the other hand, with a planted/silent cycle, you can immeiately start setting up your tank and messing with it. you can try this plant, then that plant, then you can get some more plants etc etc. It also doesn't require you to "watch" your tank like a fishless cycle does, as ClownLurch likes to say "set it up and go to the pub for two weeks". Most of the plants that one uses for a silent cycle are very hardy, and will grow in almost any water parameters. I think the learning curve is probably less than a fishless cycle (instead of learning all about the stages of the cycle, you just have to memorize the names of 5 different plants to buy). I think the other benefit of a fishless cycle is that you can always "stress test" your tank by adding ammonia and seeing what happens 24h later before adding fish. This way, instead of having to repeatedly dose ammonia and then watch that your nitrites don't get so high as to stall the cycle (thereby necessitating a water change, etc etc), you can toss in some ammonia the night before you want fish, see if the ammonia has cleared by the morning, and if you're good do a water change and head to the store.

Finally, if your tank has not properly finished cycling (story of most enthusiastic and inpatient fishkeepers), having plants as a buffer will help keep the fish healthy even if they are introduced too soon, whereas in a fishless cycled tank, there are often not enough plants to help buffer the sudden ammonia spike caused by an overenthusiastic fish-adder person.

That all being said, I think it boils down to "different strokes for different folks". Ultimately the end result is the same, but I think it depends on your personality (if you are analytical and like measuring things just so vs. if you want to get your hands wet right away and don't mind things being "messy" for a while with floating plants and such) which approach suits you best.

What is ultimately happening with my tank, is that I am doing a hybrid fishless/planted cycle. turns out my water has chloramine, which naturally turns into ammonia / nitrites, so I unknowingly introduced an ammonia source at the start before I even added plants to the tank. Thus, while my plants were establishing, I was feeding small amounts of ammonia to any baby BB that were working on establishing themselves, and the high nitrites I saw the other day were merely an end result of my tank being somewhat cycled.
 

eatyourpeas

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Some one also suggested that I could take down and remove my canister filter as it may no longer be needed. I really need more input about this before I do.
Please, do not. Having the filter will allow you to keep the amount of fish you have, as well as give them a better/cleaner environment if you keep up with the water changes. The beauty of a filter is it makes it possible to miss a water change and not end up in disaster for the critters.
 
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Utar

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@eatyourpeas thank you and I hear ya loud and clear. I love my Angels one which is my sig pic, don't want to endanger them.
 

Essjay

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So in doing a planted cycle, the fish are supposed to be the ammonia source, correct, or am I misunderstanding this. This means a fish in cycle, which goes against my feelings of subjecting fish to ammonia and nitrite poisoning. I don't do fish in cycles, I do fish-less cycling only. So in a planted cycle the plants are supposed to take the load and absorb those dangerous gasses
A silent cycle is not a fish-in cycle.

There are three types of cycle.

Fish-in cycles use fish to provide ammonia which gets the bacteria to grow. With this type of cycle, water changes have to be done frequently to keep ammonia and nitrite at zero.

Fishless cycles use ammonia from a bottle to get bacteria to grow. This method does not need water changes as there are no fish in the tank.

Silent (or plant) cycles grow only a small amount of bacteria, instead the plants take up all the ammonia and they don't turn it into nitrite, they turn it into protein. With this method there should never be a trace of ammonia or nitrite in the water after fish are added. Silent cycling depends on there being enough plants to remove all the ammonia made by the fish in the tank. Too many fish or not enough plants will result in a fish-in cycle which is why silent cycles need to be taken slowly.
First the plants must establish themselves. The last thing you want is to rush into buying fish only to find that the plants die. The plants must be fast growing plants as they take up ammonia faster and in larger quantities than slow growing plants. And there must be enough of them. One or two plants in a large tank isn't enough, but one or two plants in a 3 gallon tank with 1 betta may well be enough.
The tank is planted and the plants allowed to establish themselves. Signs of active growth is when you know the plants aren't about to go brown and disintegrate. Once you are sure the plants are actively growing, a few fish can be added. The plants are still young so they won't take up as much ammonia as when they have matured and a lot bigger than at first which is why only a few fish are added each time. The water is tested daily after fish are added to make sure there is no ammonia or nitrite in the water. As the plants grow bigger, they can take up more ammonia, so more fish can be added.
At the same time, a few bacteria do grow. But not nearly as many as there would be in a non-planted tank. Even levels of ammonia undetectable by our test kits will grow some ammonia-eating bacteria. And these will make undetectable levels of nitrite which is enough to grow a few nitrite eaters.



The difference between fish-in cycles and silent cycles is that with fish-in, the fish are exposed to ammonia and nitrite. With plants cycles, they are not - unless there are not enough plants or fish are added too quickly. This is why we always stress that there must be a lot of fast growing plants for a silent cycle to work; and why we always say that fish should be added a few at a time.
 

seangee

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Based on your pic there may be no need for a filter as such, especially as you are sensibly stocked. But you do need to keep the water moving. For that size tank I would not go filterless just because of how mucky the water is likely to get - especially with plecs in the tank. The tank looks good - no need to stress about upgrading the filters or any special media. Don't forget that sponge is bio media too. Those who make claims about other media being so much more effective are strongly swayed by the fact that there is no money to be made in selling synthetic sponge - but it is effective at both biological and mechanical filtration.
 
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Utar

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A silent cycle is not a fish-in cycle.

There are three types of cycle.

Fish-in cycles use fish to provide ammonia which gets the bacteria to grow. With this type of cycle, water changes have to be done frequently to keep ammonia and nitrite at zero.

Fishless cycles use ammonia from a bottle to get bacteria to grow. This method does not need water changes as there are no fish in the tank.

Silent (or plant) cycles grow only a small amount of bacteria, instead the plants take up all the ammonia and they don't turn it into nitrite, they turn it into protein. With this method there should never be a trace of ammonia or nitrite in the water after fish are added. Silent cycling depends on there being enough plants to remove all the ammonia made by the fish in the tank. Too many fish or not enough plants will result in a fish-in cycle which is why silent cycles need to be taken slowly.
First the plants must establish themselves. The last thing you want is to rush into buying fish only to find that the plants die. The plants must be fast growing plants as they take up ammonia faster and in larger quantities than slow growing plants. And there must be enough of them. One or two plants in a large tank isn't enough, but one or two plants in a 3 gallon tank with 1 betta may well be enough.
The tank is planted and the plants allowed to establish themselves. Signs of active growth is when you know the plants aren't about to go brown and disintegrate. Once you are sure the plants are actively growing, a few fish can be added. The plants are still young so they won't take up as much ammonia as when they have matured and a lot bigger than at first which is why only a few fish are added each time. The water is tested daily after fish are added to make sure there is no ammonia or nitrite in the water. As the plants grow bigger, they can take up more ammonia, so more fish can be added.
At the same time, a few bacteria do grow. But not nearly as many as there would be in a non-planted tank. Even levels of ammonia undetectable by our test kits will grow some ammonia-eating bacteria. And these will make undetectable levels of nitrite which is enough to grow a few nitrite eaters.



The difference between fish-in cycles and silent cycles is that with fish-in, the fish are exposed to ammonia and nitrite. With plants cycles, they are not - unless there are not enough plants or fish are added too quickly. This is why we always stress that there must be a lot of fast growing plants for a silent cycle to work; and why we always say that fish should be added a few at a time.
Thank you for your reply, and I am now understanding the silent cycle and what it means about having to be patient and adding fish slowly and staying well under stocked is probably a good idea.
Based on your pic there may be no need for a filter as such, especially as you are sensibly stocked. But you do need to keep the water moving. For that size tank I would not go filterless just because of how mucky the water is likely to get - especially with plecs in the tank. The tank looks good - no need to stress about upgrading the filters or any special media. Don't forget that sponge is bio media too. Those who make claims about other media being so much more effective are strongly swayed by the fact that there is no money to be made in selling synthetic sponge - but it is effective at both biological and mechanical filtration.

Thank you for your reply, for now I am leaving every thing as is and maybe when I next clean my canister filter removing half the media and filling that tray with sponges for cleaning. I will then monitor my water for ammonia, etc to see how it works. I have a good canister with four large trays, two right now have bio-home ultimate media. Bio-home ultimate media is expensive, I bought five pounds for $100.00, so thinking I bought into the hype on that stuff.
 

itiwhetu

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I haven't read the whole thread. The filter is an important part of your system as it moves water around the tank and allows gas exchange. Without a filter and no movement your tank will become like a stagnant pond. Every aquarium needs water movement. An air stone is a great way to increase the surface area of your tank, but does little else.
 

Essjay

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I have mentioned in a few threads about quarantining new fish with no mature media, just plants. What I should have added is that I did put a small filter in the tank, filled with filter wool/floss. This served two purposes - it moved the water round the tank, as @itiwhetu said, and the filter wool trapped any particles in the water. If the tank had been set up long enough, some bacteria would have grown but as a quarantine tank it was only set up for a short period.
 
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